"He who is grateful in all things shall be made glorious." D&C 78:19 (bold is my doing)
"..And after the fire came a gentle whisper." Kings 19:12
My birthday is coming up, which means this planet has been graced with my presence for 52 years. Of course, it's reciprocal. This planet, this life, has also graced me with an abundance of experiences I would never dream of handing back. That may not mean much to you, or to the world, but for me, when I think of it, I want to kneel down, bow my head, and surrender my grateful heart at the alter of Whatever Mystery created me to live and breathe, and experience this life. My life. What a ride!
A couple of months ago, a friend wrote these words to me, "Biggest drain of my time for the least benefit." The subject we were discussing, in the whole scheme of things, was trivial and doesn't really matter, yet the sentence itself jumped out at me. In one sentence, he pretty much summed up a world view, in varying degrees, regarding any and everything.
My very first thought and response, (that I didn't send), to that sentence was, "I'll lay odds down that the benefit you received is in equal measure to the effort you gave to it." Because that is a Universal Law, and it is exact. There's no short cut, there's no way around it. What you give to any endeavor, anything or anyone, the effort you put forth, will return to you in equal measure, and the reason for that is because you will only be able to see the benefit in direct proportion to what you give. The benefit is already there, waiting, vibrating in full potentiality. You cannot see, and will never have eyes to see, what you yourself are not giving. You get what you yourself put into, or give to a thing. That is why you want to give without any thought of return. Because you don't know. That line of thought is, in essence, putting the cart before the horse. But more on that later...
Also, in that time frame, (just before my friend wrote those words to me, and right after I wrote Broken Wings), I had another interesting conversation, (if you could call it that), in an online chat window, with a friend who, after I gave him a cheery greeting, told me he was, in that very moment, putting an end to his life. He said he had just swallowed a bunch of pills, and would be dead within the hour. He thanked me for being a good friend, and then, just like that, poof!, he was gone.
Woah! Didn't see that one coming! You can ask my roommates...I literally screamed. I felt my heart had just been ripped right out of my chest, and, for one split second, I felt more helpless than I think I've ever felt in my entire life. I hate feeling helpless. I felt my mind snap, then I snapped into action.
I did everything within my power to find him, to reach him, his family, friends, cops, whatever it took, in an attempt to save his ungrateful life. After several hours, and with the help of a couple of his other friends, I finally tracked down his completely frazzled mother, who immediately proceeded, ( I mean, I barely got two words in ), to berate me for caring, and told me to butt out of her son's life, because his family is taking care of him. Yeah, well, frankly, I would have given anything not to be involved, because it's for damn sure I've got enough on my own plate, but her son, who I do care about, did involve me, so I acted, responded to what was handed to me in that moment. It's not like I don't understand her viewpoint, even though I don't agree with it, and I'll be damned if I'd do any different given the same circumstances, going on the little information I had available to me, which was, in essence, "I'll be dead within the hour. Goodbye." Click.
Bzzzz! But thank you for playing! Oh no you don't! Not on my watch!
But I digress...
I suppose, looking at it from one very narrow angle, you could say that all my efforts, the time I spent, the tears I cried for this man, were a big drain, (I do know I certainly felt drained when all was said and done), and in the end, on the surface, it might appear there was no benefit in it for me at all, and was way more trouble, ( i.e. drama ), than it was worth. Especially over someone who, evidently, doesn't give a shit about his life, or living. I mean, if he doesn't care about his life, why should I...right?
Who determines my actions? Who makes the final determination in what I care about, in what matters to me, in where I place value and meaning, and how I will put that into action, or demonstrate it? You? Him? Others? Anyone outside myself? We are victims to no one but ourselves.
Here is what I know. 20 years ago I made a decision to begin practicing gratitude, and within that same year I also began practicing love, because the act of giving thanks automatically begins to open and soften the heart, and will naturally lean you toward love...and love simply does...it gives.
At the time, I wasn't messing around. I was at a point where I didn't have anything to lose in giving it a good, honest effort. Besides, if there is any consistent theme at all running in the background of my life it is that I don't generally do anything half assed. That has been both a blessing and a curse. I was in despair, and full of hopelessness and self pity, and unfortunately, I didn't do any of that half assed either. In fact, I was close to being in the same state of mind as my suicidal friend. It was sink or swim time.
So I get it. I do. I have experienced more than my fair share of shit in life. I understand the mental, emotional, and physical effects, and I know their cause. It was a hard, hard thing to begin the practice of gratitude, and I had to literally scrape around the bottom of the barrel to find anything I felt the slightest bit thankful for. It was work. Why did I do it then? Because right before I decided to practice gratitude, I made the decision I want to live. Not merely live some sort of half life, but live live. From there, I looked for anything to try, any inspiration in how to do that better. That inspiration just happened to come from a book I read called Mutant Message Down Under, by Marlo Morgan. I got the message. I didn't do it for anyone else but myself, because I was a seriously hurtin' unit, and, quite simply, I finally recognized that I didn't really want to die, I wanted to feel better, and feel alive.
And I did. I felt surprisingly better. Initially I had to practice persistence, had to work it, because I didn't really, really believe the practice would do much good, but I knew enough to realize that if I didn't give it my all, then I couldn't be truly honest in saying the results were bullshit. That would be like saying I don't like green beans when I've never actually eaten one. So I committed myself to the act, giving it 30 days, just so I could say, at least to myself, yeah, I tried it.
I felt so much better that I continued with that practice because it began to be the only thing that made sense in this crazy world. And ever so slowly, without my realizing it, that practice became a habit. It took on a life of it's own within me. I found myself automatically seeking the good in everything. I can no more stop myself from giving thanks than I can stop the need for food and water. I don't want to stop it. And when I came across the quote above, regarding being grateful IN all things, I thought, "Why not? I'll include the shitty stuff too. What do I have to lose?" I didn't see the importance of the word "in." However, as soon as I began making the attempt to give thanks for the shit, I had eyes to see the word in. Give thanks even while you are in, walking through the shitty stuff in life. Know what happens when you do that? Alchemy. Magic. Would I prefer a life without shit? Of course! But if I happen to be walking, say, through the valley of the shadow of death, then I may as well make the most of it, and seek the good in it all. And I saw I had already been doing that! Unknowingly, I began this practice while standing knee deep in shitty-ness! My motivation wasn't so I'd be made glorious. I don't even know what that means! Other than what that practice has done to my sight. Because when I look over there at you, I see the glory of you.
I mentioned in my last post that for the past few years I'd been suffering from a sense of disappointment that I didn't understand, and didn't know how to heal. It is certain that if I knew how to heal it, drop it, it would already be done. If I knew where the tangle was in my thought process, it would be untangled before now. Because I don't like the feeling. And I could also feel, lurking in the background, a thought of "why bother?" It was hindering my expression, animation, passion, and enthusiasm, and that concerned me. I finally found my answer, and I have been making some changes.
I know...that as soon as my eyes were opened ~ after I'd been practicing giving love and gratitude until it became a part of me ~ as soon as I had an answer...my automatic response was to share it, to give. And I did that. What I didn't anticipate, what I didn't understand, and was shocked by again and again, from husband, family, friends, people in my life, was the pushback. I thought they wanted to heal. I thought they had that same desire inside them as I do. I was all excited over what I'd found through that practice! And it's not like I was pushin' this shit onto people! I was answering them. I was giving to them what they themselves were seeking. That cure is nothing new. Every mystic, every prophet, in every religion, since the "fall of man" has given the same exact information, and it has been waiting through the ages for whoever receives it. Practice love and gratitude.
I've had people think I'm attacking them, after I listen to them, and I simply say, "Practice gratitude." They think I'm calling them ungrateful. They hear me saying they "should" be grateful. They are offended! I'm not saying they should do anything! I'm saying, do that and you'll feel better. They have thought it means I don't care about their feelings...feelings they'd have to let go of the very moment they go to practice gratitude, because you can't feel angry, you can't keep, or hold onto feelings of hate, resentment, jealousy, guilt, or shame when you are earnestly practicing gratitude, actively seeking what you have that is good. It is impossible!
Or they think I'm not listening, or that I don't understand. Oh, I understand. There aren't many conditions, or situations that I haven't applied the practice of gratitude and love while I was in it. There aren't many areas, or states of being that I haven't put that practice to the test. Proved it to myself first before turning around and sharing it with someone else. I'm not going to tell a person a thing without having first used myself as the guinea pig. It isn't some bit of fluff, or fad I tried with only half an effort. I have lived this practice for so long now that the spirit of it is now alive in me. I put my entire self into the practice.
Or worse, they think I'm judging them. They think I'm looking down on them, from some high horse they see me sitting on. I have had people say to me that I must think I'm better than they are, and they proceed to work at bringing me down. Trust me when I say that if I was even close to thinking I was better than you are, I would not be able to utter the words, "Thank you," with any kind of sincerity. It wouldn't even occur to me to do so. This practice teaches humility. And the reason you want to learn to be humble is because perfect humility is perfect reception. The more humble you are, which comes naturally to those who practice gratitude, the more you see what you have, and are receiving. So no, I don't compare. I don't think in those terms. I'm not over here competing. None of this makes me a good person, it makes me a person who practices good, who is seeking the good in all things, and being grateful for it, and trying my best to give it, to share what I have received through the practice. I'm good at seeing the silver lining because I've been practicing it for years and years. Not so I can lord it over anyone, and point and say, "I win! Na na na!" All the while yelling, "Loser!" But because I know the benefits from practicing it. So no, I don't have to judge them. They are doing that to themselves far worse than I ever could. Why would I want to pile more onto them? Or I'll say, "Practice giving, loving." They look at me sideways, full of suspicion, and think I'm wanting to take from them. I am merely giving them the cure for what ails them. Folks have said to me, "I don't have to love you! I don't have to give to you!" Again, acting as if I am trying to force something from them they don't want to do or give. They're right, they don't have to. But they will only receive in the exact measure they give.
Or they think I'm trying to "fix" them. I'm not trying to fix them! If I am saying, "Practice gratitude, or practice giving," I am wanting to share with you what I see. I am trying to give to you what you can do to have your eyes opened to the glory of you, and the glory of all that surrounds you! I want you to be able to say with sincerity what I stated in the first sentence of this post. I want you to feel that. Because it is certain that is what I see and believe in you. You are a presence that has graced this earth and my life, and I am profoundly grateful for your being! I want you to see that there is nothing to fix! That you already have everything you need. That you are perfect exactly the way you are! I want you to see that you are already whole. You are already loved. I want you to be still....and know. The only way you will have the eyes to see that, and know it, is to give thanks...to give love. Practice gratitude, practice giving, practice loving with your whole heart and soul. Throw yourself into it. The benefit of doing so is yours first.
"Does your face light up when a loved one enters the room?" If not, why not? Why did you stop smiling? Where did your smile for me, or for anyone go? Why did you take your smile away? And for the love of good, why wouldn't you want to heal whatever it is inside you that took that smile away?
I can guarantee you this...I have spent myself, holding nothing back. I have given my entire being, poured myself into friendship, marriage, and family, into any and all endeavors, into life and living itself, and it is I who have benefited most from the spending. I received my answer to truly live, in the measure that I gave myself over to life, to living, to all the rich experiences, textures, and encounters with a grateful heart. I've been there, rocked that, and I'm still rocking it! If I have no other witness, no other being who sees it, and what I have done, and what I have given, other than God, then so be it. It is enough. I am satisfied.
Give. Find the flower that blooms on the battlefield. Give thanks for it's being, and growing there...in all it's loveliness, and purity, untouched by the warring heart of mankind. Stand in the middle of a forest of old cedars, or in a desert full of saguaros, all of which have lived far longer than you. Reach out with your spirit and ask them what they know, and have seen in their silent vigil over the decades.
For Grace lives here...in our midst...and is waiting, available to all.